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Pathway Maps Frequently Asked Questions

What are pathway maps?

Pathway maps are flowcharts that show a high-level overview of the standard of care that an Ontario cancer patient should receive. They are organized by cancer type (e.g., lung cancer) and phase of the cancer continuum (e.g., screening, diagnosis, treatment).  

Pathway maps are subject to clinical judgment. Actual practice may not follow the proposed steps because individual circumstances vary.

Who are pathway maps intended for?

Pathway maps are intended for clinicians and health administrators as informational resources and as a tool to promote discussion and collaboration between care providers. They are not intended to constitute medical advice or replace clinical judgment.

Why do pathway maps exist?

Pathway maps are intended to set care expectations for cancer patients in Ontario based on the best scientific evidence. 

The goal is to ensure the same high standard of care for all patients in Ontario by improving access, appropriateness and coordination of care.

How are pathway maps developed?

Pathway maps are developed based on evidence from clinical practice guidelines. In the absence of scientific evidence, the consensus of multidisciplinary experts in Ontario is used. Throughout their development, pathway maps are reviewed extensively by internal and external experts.

Pathway map development continually improves in an evolving process based on stakeholder feedback and input.

To learn more, download the Pathway Map Development Methodology.

Who is involved in the development of pathway maps?

To develop pathway maps, the Disease Pathway Management Program builds multidisciplinary teams of experts including primary care physicians, specialists, nurses and allied health professionals. 

In addition to these experts, the program actively solicits input and feedback from internal (i.e., Cancer Care Ontario programs) and external (i.e., healthcare providers) stakeholders. 

To see the list of experts involved in creating each pathway map, please visit the pathway page of interest.

How do healthcare providers use pathway maps?

Clinicians can use pathway maps as informational resources. Wherever possible, care should follow them, as they represent evidence-based best practice. 

However, pathway maps are subject to clinical judgment and should be used according to each patient’s circumstance. Actual practice may not follow the outlined steps because they are not intended to constitute medical advice or replace clinical judgment.

Clinicians, health system administrators and multidisciplinary teams can use the pathways to:

  • provide support for clinical decision making in alignment with evidence based best practice
  • create awareness of appropriate next steps to facilitate coordination and integration of care
  • act as a framework to identify and reduce variation in practice patterns
  • identify opportunities for improvement in healthcare system performance in a hospital or region (e.g., access to and coordination of care, variation in practice and outcomes)
  • support health system and services planning and inform cancer program development in a hospital or region 

How often will pathway maps be updated?

Once a pathway map is published, it is reviewed annually and updated as needed through a process outlined in the Pathway Map Development Methodology document.